Les Semaines Supplémentaires en France

June 12, 2018

How much is too much for an antique pocket watch? I’ve now discovered that €230 is too much no matter how pristine and well-maintained it was. It was jewel encrusted, though… Maybe it would have been worth it. However, despite my best efforts, antiques evaded me throughout my hunt and I returned defeated but somehow having purchased PopRocks to my delight.

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June 13, 2018

The source of previously mysterious bug bites may have been discovered. I somehow managed to spot a single flea in my room. Only one, confirmed by the two and a half hour search I subsequently launched to root out any surviving relatives of my tormentor. In other news, truffade is as great as theory posits. A giant pan of bubbling cheese and potatoes is a hard thing to ruin in my eyes and I was not disappointed. However, the other end of our table was extremely loud to the point that other patrons were leaving the restaurant. Then, when someone on our end laughed, they tried to tell us to be quiet because we were making people angry. We were? No, my dear, that’s you. So far I’ve found I have the most fun when I’m not with everyone else especially not all of them. It’s just too much.

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June 16, 2018

I have officially become the first person descended from the Rossignol line to not only return to Europe but also to visit the town we used to live in. Dr. Bass had been planning on taking me to see it since I mentioned my family was from the area during the application process, so off we went along with Dr. Winston and Dr. Bass’ friend, Jacques, who was visiting from Bordeaux. I can’t say that I was expecting them to have a tourism office, but I was glad they did. In a somewhat creepy turn of events, they even had a projection of Queen Margot (Marguerite de Valois) in the basement that talked about the history of the region and her imprisonment there. It was unsettling but interesting to see. We walked throughout the village, visited the church, looked through the cemetery though I knew none of my ancestors would be buried there. We don’t really do organized mass burial sites because enemy groups tended to do that to us, so a private burial in a pre-chosen special place is the tradition. The village is built on and around a large hill and there’s a statue of Mother Mary on the top to which we climbed. However, on the way back down I managed to slip on the loose dirt (I really shouldn’t be climbing in shoes. I need to be barefoot to get traction.) and land in a cheer split on the side of the hill. Nice.

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June 18-19, 2018

Cheese in a cave. We saw it, I ate it, it was great. For context, as a group, we toured one of the dairy farms from which St. Nectaire cheese comes. We saw the cows (including some 10-day old calves being taken off for slaughter which broke my heart more than a little), a 3D short film including pictures and historical accounts of the area, and toured the caves where they prepare the cheese. Great cheese, 10/10. However, such a great excursion had to be followed by a disaster which came in the form of le Chaîne des Puys. I was originally going to opt out of the trip because I knew my lung wouldn’t handle hiking a volcano as was the first plan. However, when the plan was changed to hiking DOWN the volcano instead, I decided to give it a shot. That was mistake number one. The plan was misconstrued and actually entailed several long bouts of hiking very much upward, climbing three volcanos in le chaîne, and me twisting my knee terribly (because I REALLY shouldn’t be climbing anything in shoes when I can’t get traction) and returning with seemingly permanent discoloration due to volcanic rock opening the skin and ash remaining under it. Gross. Never again.

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June 21-22, 2018

There I was, just enjoying the Fête de la Musique and listening to a guy play what I’m pretty sure was Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend on a ukelele in front of the looming cathedral at like 11:00 at night when Pierre announces his surprise weekend return from Germany to visit his mother who then prompted him to drop in on me. So I, of course, had to march across the city to the bus stop to find him and then the rest of the night was a blur of dive bars I hadn’t seen previously and a confusing muddle of musical instruments ringing in my ears. The next morning, I sent him on his way back to his mother and off we Americans went to the lake. Important info: prior to this fateful trip, I had never been sunburned in my life. I didn’t tan, I didn’t burn, I was just perpetually the same color. This trip changed that. Whilst avoiding the massive herd of French boys clogging the swimming area, we took out paddle boats, had a picnic, conversed, all while I was toasting without my knowledge. 48 hours later and my back was a deep red-purple hue that had me almost worried enough to use my international health insurance. However, that would require time spent at the hospital and my French is likely not good enough to go alone in which case I would be wasting a professor’s time as well. It didn’t seem worth it and it was never really painful at all anyway which I found odd, but I took it as a comfort and finished my trip with a discolored back and questions about why everyone always complains about sunburns.

Première Semaine en France

June 1, 2018

To begin, it should be made clear that prior to flying to Iceland, I had never been in an airplane before. I had flown in helicopters, bungee jumped, and even had a prolonged belief as a child that I could levitate. No airplanes, though. So, my first flight was an experience in itself. Overall, I felt it was fine despite the overwhelmingly negative comments the airline had previously received and after several unsuccessful attempts to sleep over the Atlantic, I was examining the puffins strolling around on the other side of the tarmac from Keflavik International Airport. One odd part of my Icelandic layover was the fact that it took me less than five minutes (not counting the time it took to actually get off the first plane) to reach the gate for my next flight and less than half an hour later I was on my way to Paris. Wild. This is doubly important to the hilarity of my trek through CDG Airport once I arrived. During that five minute walk through KIA, a lady quickly took my passport as I was passing through a doorway, stamped it, and handed it back. Apparently, that was my customs check into the EU because no one else even asked to look at my passport aside from the flight attendant seating me to confirm my name. Even once I was leaving CDG in Paris, no one stopped me, asked for my passport, or even glanced in my general direction. (I won’t lie, being white-passing was likely a major factor because a chubby little light-skinned girl isn’t going to attract a lot of suspicions.) So, I walked from my plane to baggage and then directly out of the airport to my hotel where I relished in a hot shower, ate the complimentary madeleines, and slept for roughly 7 hours before going back through the airport to catch my bus at 12:50 a.m. (also not an incredibly awful ordeal though that was when the first French person was rude to me). One last note, my dorm room is so obnoxiously green it gives me a headache.

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June 2-3, 2018

It seems most of my peers didn’t pack as thoroughly as we were warned to since most of them arrived without towels. That gave us an excuse to run off on a downtown Clermont-Ferrand exploration extravaganza during which we visited the appropriately intimidating volcanic-rock cathedral, perused the mall and little specialty shops, and somehow managed to walk uphill the entire way including on the way back to the dorms. This unfortunate topographical layout seems to permeate the entire city and my lung is no fan. We went out for authentic French crêpes which were mostly cheese and potatoes, but those are my two favorite things, so I was satisfied. Also, for dessert I had an amazing crêpe filled with mango and strawberries. 10/10 would recommend.

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June 8-9, 2018

Class, grocery shopping (pretty much the same as in America just with better food, so no worries), and HEAT ANGER FROM THE LACK OF AIR-CON have been the center of my life for the past five or so days, but now we embark on our group trip to Lyon (where I’ve already been, BTW because not only did I have an hours-long wait between buses there, but my second bus was late, so minor exploring was completed previously). Unfortunately and much to my ire, Pierre has an internship in Berlin this summer so alas, he will not be there to greet me. What a selfish boy, honestly hehe. Despite my disappointment at being eluded by my oldest friend, I did manage to see a significant amount of the city from the most extra cathedral I may ever lay eyes on (there was gold leaf EVERYWHERE including in the TAPESTRIES and DOORS) to an informative boat tour along the Rhône during which we accidentally crashed a primary school field-trip. Oops. The kids didn’t seem to mind though. We explored the ruins of a Roman amphitheater, ate an excessive amount of couscous (much to my delight), and toured a museum documenting Roman occupation of the region in antiquity which was right up my alley.

India Night 2018

I was promised food and entertainment and that is exactly what I received at India Night this semester. Student dance troupes performed their sets representing many different regions of India in traditional dance styles. Interwoven with these were contemporary dances they had put together to depict their cultural identity as college youths. Additionally, short skits were performed from several of the troupes that had previously been on the stage. The graduate tutor on my dorm floor, Suchithra Dhanaveerapandian, was included in several performances and, I have to say, she stole the entire show. She was absolutely marvelous. Their best performances… Unfortunately, the crowd got antsy very quickly at the prospect of food and so they rapidly headed for the door, completely ignoring the dancers on stage. While that upset me slightly, the dancers also recognized that people were wrestling for the food we had been promised.

So, once we had all fed ourselves, the rambunctiousness

  • Performed dances from each region of India
  • Dance teams performed skits (traditional/contemporary)
  • hella food (catered Indian traditional food)
  • everyone fought to leave early to get to the food. Very excited
  • Suchi performed & was good. Stole the show w/ her troupe (was hip-hop-esque)
  • celebrated culture
  • people were hella loud

Term Reflections from a President

I wasn’t sure how I would manage being co-president of French club as a freshman, but this semester has given me quite a lot to think about. Somehow, I ended up being both the youngest and most dependable one of us which I definitely didn’t expect. Of course, you have to take into consideration that the others are further along in their programs and have much less time (not that I have much to speak of either) to plan, arrange, and attend meetings and events. That leaves my young self to be the life force of this tiny group. It’s a quest I bear with honor, to be sure.

Honestly, I feel like more French was learned and exchanged, both language and culture-wise, than in the previous semester. We also managed to meet on a consistent basis. Furthermore, French exchange students attended! This was a major achievement brought on by a delicate combination of begging, recruiting, extensive Facebook messaging, and luck. In fact, Genna (our most enthusiastic native French member) started attending as part of a project for her marketing class.

We did, however, also have our share of bumps in the road. We never did get university funding. My predecessor left with little warning and no paperwork completed which meant we then missed the deadline to apply. That was a major hurdle, but we made do and plan to do better in the future. Of course, then there was the arrest and the subsequent scramble for us (mostly me) to find an interim faculty sponsor for French Club. Luckily, I had previously made some connections in the department and managed to pull something together. All in all, it’s been a wild ride. Let’s see if I get elected again? (Bonne Chance!)

Mardi Gras 2018

So, a holiday with a French name will not escape being celebrated by OU’s French Club. Amongst friends, food, and not-so-subtle decorations; fun was had and some French was spoken. It was an interesting experience discovering how native French people view the “western” celebration of Mardi Gras. Having been a Catholic nation for such a long time, I wasn’t shocked when I was informed that it’s a much more… solemn holiday in France itself. Though, I wonder if that’s just because we throw bigger, wilder parties in the Western Hemisphere?

Despite it being thrown in a club dedicated to France and French culture, there was a distinctive non-French feeling attached to everything we did. Upon further thought, that could be because three of the four leaders of the club (including myself) have lived in Louisiana in our lifetimes. As any American should know, Louisiana doesn’t hold back during Mardi Gras. Once the celebration starts, you can practically feel the ground vibrating with the overwhelming exhilaration. (I should probably note here that the punch French club served was 100% non-alcoholic. It’s a university requirement.) We provided a very toned-down experience for our less-experienced guests so as not to overwhelm their senses all at once.

Overall, though, I would say it was a great experience and even if we didn’t participate in “traditional” French culture surrounding the holiday, we did learn quite a bit about the differences from native French people themselves. Besides, everyone had fun and perhaps we’ll do a better job next year.

The Iranian Youth’s “Non-Movement”

Subversive youth cultures have existed throughout human history and across the globe. In fact, most changes and developments in “acceptable” human behavior can be attributed to “non-movements” or “silent protests”. By not actively opposing the regulations already in place, youths are able to spread ideas and the like farther without arousing ire from those in power. Because of this, there is also little that can be done by authorities to prevent “youth culture” from spreading. In recent decades, Iran has displayed this phenomenon consistently through a variety of actions opposing the country’s status quo.

Underground, silent protests are most effective when they remain under the radar of the conflicting establishment. When a particular set of behaviors have been adopted en masse, it’s much more difficult to control a large number of people all participating in it. For instance, when Iranian youths began dating, people under 30 years old made that change in a relatively short period of time. Therefore, the regime couldn’t realistically prevent so many from engaging in an activity they didn’t approve of. This, then, would lead to other behaviors cropping up across the nation and the regime would be forced to continue turning a blind eye to it in order to keep the peace. However, this then instilled a sense of courage in the Iranian youth to continue pushing the boundaries of what they could “get away with” and eventually, some began to question the regime in a more direct manner.

Subversive culture integration techniques aren’t new in human society, but the Iranian youth have shown that it continues to be effective, no matter how ancient.

More On My Co-Presidency

So, it’s been almost five months since I have begun my position as co-president of OU’s French Club. So far, it’s been nothing if not interesting. Between finding interesting topics for meetings, budget mishaps, deadlines missed by my (our) predecessor, and an inconsistent membership base; it can sometimes be hard to remember that I chose to do this because I love French Club. Common knowledge upholds the idea that once something you were going to do anyway becomes a chore, you lose interest and motivation. Thankfully, that has yet to happen in this regard, but I can feel my enthusiasm waning with each new meeting with a group attendance below ten.

Fortunately, those who do attend club meetings are very positive, curious people who are always willing to follow along to whatever experimental idea my three presidential peers and myself have concocted for that particular week. Thus far we have attempted group-reading French children’s books, French slang lessons presented by our wonderful French exchange members, and en-masse discussions of French culture. Most people, one can assume, would question the practicality of leaving four underclassmen in charge of a university-sponsored program with little to no oversight, but we have taken all that has been thrown at us so far including being excluded from university funding, having only one leader with a considerable knowledge of our associated language, and even having to find an emergency replacement to fill our faculty liaison position. However, j’adore mon club et sa spontanéité.

*Rien n’est jamais parfait.*